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Chargers place Seyi Ajirotutu, David Molk on injured reserve

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The San Diego Chargers were already facing a shortage of available bodies on the offensive line before losing another player for the season on Tuesday.

The Chargers placed center David Molk and wide receiver Seyi Arijotutu on injured reserve Tuesday. The moves allowed San Diego to add a couple healthy linemen to the roster in center Colin Baxter and guard Stephen Schilling.

Head coach Norv Turner said Monday he didn’t expect tackles Michael Harris (ankle) and Jeromey Clary (knee) or left guard Tyronne Green (hamstring) to be available to play this week against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Molk injured his thumb and Arijotutu hurt his hand in the Chargers 20-13 loss to Cincinnati on Sunday.

The injuries could have left Turner with four linemen unavailable to play against the Steelers with only eight offensive linemen on the roster.

Baxter played in three games and made two starts for the New York Jets in 2011 before being signed by the Chargers. He played in five games for the Chargers last season and was with the team in training camp before being released at the end of training camp.

Schilling was a sixth-round pick of the Chargers last year. He made two starts and appeared in nine games for the Chargers last year before being also being let go following training camp.

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Bears announce signing of Mark Sanchez

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Mark Sanchez has found his fifth NFL team.

Sanchez has signed with the Bears, the team announced today, making him the backup to starting quarterback Mike Glennon.

The Bears may still draft a quarterback, and if they do Sanchez could have value as a veteran mentor. Last year in Dallas, rookie quarterback Dak Prescott credited Sanchez for helping him learn how to be a professional.

Sanchez started his career as the fifth overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft with the Jets. He started in the AFC Championship Game in each of his first two seasons, but those Jets teams were led by their defense, and Sanchez never developed into the kind of quarterback who could lead a team. After five years in New York, Sanchez spent two seasons with the Eagles, then was briefly with the Broncos before getting cut after the preseason last year before finally ending up backing up Prescott in Dallas.

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Dean Blandino: We’ll head toward full-time refs, even if some quit

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The NFL is moving toward having full-time referees, even if some refs aren’t willing to quit their other jobs.

NFL Senior V.P. of Officiating Dean Blandino said on PFT Live that he is concerned some referees will quit if forced to go full-time because they make more money in their other jobs. But he said he ultimately expects the league to have full-time referees anyway.

“It’s certainly a concern,” Blandino said of some referees quitting. “When you look at our sport, football is different from other sports. We typically play once a week and as officiating has evolved, that’s why football officials have had other professions, because of the longer gap between games. So that’s a concern. We’re looking at it from a phased-in approach, and giving our referees the opportunity to have two or three years to phase into this and maybe phase out of their other professions. The concern is there, it’s real, you may lose some of your better people, but we think the benefits of full-time officiating outweigh those risks and we’re going to continue down that path.”

It seems likely that some referees would, in fact, choose not to be referees anymore if they were told they had to choose. Ed Hochuli, for instance, is a highly paid attorney who would be taking a big pay cut if he gave that up. But with the NFL paying referees six-figure salaries, most of them would probably stick with it. If the league is convinced it would improve officiating, then the league should make referees full-time employees.

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Joe Thomas likes the local kid best among the college quarterbacks

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The Browns have spent the offseason acquiring offensive line talent. And the cornerstone of that unit has endorsed one particular rookie quarterback which he’d like to protect.

During a radio interview on 92.3 The Fan, Browns left tackle Joe Thomas said North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky was the best fit for the Browns or any other NFL team.

“I know that Mitchell Trubisky is probably the guy that has the most upside potential in a pro-style offense in the NFL, and I don’t see those other guys as obvious fits in NFL offenses,” Thomas said, via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal. “So if you’re going to take a guy, he might be your guy you want to take.

“With that being said, I think he’s only started for a year, so he’s got a lot of improvement to make before he is ready to be the starting quarterback.”

Trubisky gets linked to the Browns a lot, partly because he’s local and partly because their quarterback position has been a Superfund site since they returned to Cleveland.

They own the first pick overall, so they could take him if they wanted. But Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett is the consensus top pick, so they might have to do some juggling with the 12th pick (and their handful of accumulated picks) if they want Trubisky, considering all the people around them also looking for quarterbacks.

Whichever one they take, he’ll walk into a better situation, as they signed free agent guard Kevin Zeitler and center J.C. Tretter while extending guard Joel Bitonio’s deal, giving Thomas the kind of line talent he hasn’t often enjoyed.

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Bears set up private workout with DeShone Kizer

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The Bears signed their starter at the beginning of free agency with a deal for Mike Glennon, and are close to a deal for a backup in Mark Sanchez. But they’re obviously still looking to the future.

In fact, they might have already gotten a peek at their next one wearing gear from their city.

According to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, the Bears are setting up a private workout with the Notre Dame quarterback next week. So they had to like it when he showed up for his pro day workout Thursday wearing a “Chicago” T-shirt, even if it was in honor of the band and not the football team.

I just had it with me,” Kizer said of the shirt. “I was able to become a recent big Chicago fan, so I have been wearing that shirt everywhere I go. I didn’t even think about the Bears. I just put that together.”

Of course, the Bears are going to have competition if they want to put something together with Kizer with the third overall pick. The 49ers were there in force yesterday, with General Manager John Lynch (owner of the second pick) there alongside personnel man Martin Mayhew and others.

Lynch called it a “positive workout,” for Kizer, and the jockeying for quarterbacks at the top of the draft will continue for the next month, with the Browns and Jets joining the Bears and 49ers in the mix for the top prospects including Kizer, Deshaun Watson, Mitchell Trubisky and Patrick Mahomes.

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Marshon Lattimore continues to defend his hamstrings

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Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore had to take up for himself during the Scouting Combine, after a report that his hamstring tightened up during his workout.

And after his pro day workout Thursday, he wondered why people kept bringing it up.

Via Austin Ward of ESPN.com, Lattimore said there was nothing wrong with either of his hamstrings and that the hip flexor issue which caused him to cut short his Indianapolis workout was fine too.

“That’s why I tweeted that,” Lattimore said. “Yeah, I wanted to clear it up. It is what it is.

“Man, there’s going to be people that try to bring you down. They didn’t even know what was going on. I didn’t grab my hamstring or anything like that, they just thought it was my hamstring. It is what it is, but, you know, I’m good. I had to come out here and show them [the athleticism], and another reason I tried to come out here was to show them I’m not injured.”

Of course, there’s a reason for the concern. A torn left hamstring cost him his 2014 season and a strain in the right one kept him on the sidelines for most of 2015. Despite only one full year of starting, he figures to be one of the top cornerbacks in a talented pool in this year’s draft, and a likely top-10 pick.

He stood on his combine testing numbers, and did positional drills at yesterday’s pro day.

“I just wanted to show my quickness, that I’m smooth, I can do everything,” Lattimore said. “Because I didn’t do anything at the combine. … [The hip flexor] wasn’t really bad, but they told me just not to try to hurt myself by going back out there.

“So I just had to show them that what I can do. I didn’t put any pressure on myself, because I knew I wasn’t injured like that. I was just ready to show them what I can do.”

His history will make teams wary, or at least cause them to do their own research. But if they trust he’s past those previous problems, there’s nothing about his play which suggests a concern.

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NFL may crack down on penalties designed to manipulate the clock

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Call it the Chip Kelly Rule.

The NFL is considering a rules proposal that would make it unsportsmanlike conduct to commit multiple fouls on the same down, designed to manipulate the game clock. That rule is inspired by the 49ers’ defensive backs grabbing all of the Saints’ receivers late in the first half of a game last year, forcing the Saints to run a play that took precious seconds off the clock as they tried to score before halftime. Kelly acknowledged after the game that it was a tactic he had his team work on in practice.

Under the old rules, the 49ers were only called for defensive holding, which they were glad to take to allow time to run off the clock. Under the proposed rule, it would be both a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, and the clock would be reset to where it was before the snap.

Kelly didn’t have the kind of impact he wanted to have in the NFL, failing with both the Eagles and the 49ers. But perhaps he’ll have the lasting legacy of forcing the NFL to adopt a new rule.

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Report: Clay Matthews Sr. dies at 88

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One of the most prominent families in the NFL lost one of its patriarchs.

According to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, former San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman Clay Matthews Sr. died at age 88 following a long illness.

Matthews played parts of four seasons for the 49ers (1950, 53-55) and helped father a long line of productive NFL players.

Bruce Matthews was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007 following a 19-year career that saw him named a first-team All-Pro a whopping 10 times with 14 Pro Bowl selections at tackle for the Houston Oilers and Tennessee Oilers/Titans. Clay Matthews Jr. was a three-time All-Pro and four-time Pro Bowl section in 19 seasons with the Cleveland Browns and Atlanta Falcons.

Bruce and Clay Jr. each have two sons make the NFL as well. Bruce is father to Jake and Kevin Matthews. Jake is the left tackle for the Atlanta Falcons while Kevin played parts of five seasons for the Tennessee Titans, Washington Redskins and Carolina Panthers.

Clay Jr. is father to Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews III and Casey Matthews, who played linebacker for the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings.

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Crown of helmet rule could be expanded

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Several years ago, the NFL adopted a rule that prohibits players from lining up an opponent and ramming him with the top of the helmet. With few exceptions, the rule — which would have made illegal one of the greatest highlights of the 1970s — has been honored.

The rule could now be expanding. The Competition Committee has proposed expanding the prohibition to include not just the crown of the helmet but the hairline.

A total of 24 votes from ownership will be needed to pass the rule. Given that the rule enhances player safety, and in light of the current focus on making the game safer, it’s hard to imagine at least nine owners opposing this change.

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Chargers steadily selling out (a small) stadium

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The Chargers will avoid the sight of empty seats in their first season in Los Angeles.

They just won’t set any speed records when doing so.

According to an ESPN report, the franchise has sold all but about 600 of its season tickets for 2017. However steady the progress, selling out a 30,000-seat StubHub Center has been a process unlike what the Rams experienced when making their Los Angeles return in 2016.

The Rams sold all 70,000 of their season tickets in six hours.

The Chargers have taken longer to sell less.

They began accepting $100 refundable deposits on Jan. 12 and announced season-ticket prices on Feb. 14. They opened business to existing season-ticket holders (those from Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego) on Feb. 22 and to other customers on March 9, a club source said Thursday evening. So, it’s been two weeks since the public sale opened.

This was never a competition with the Rams. The Chargers know what they’re up against in a new market.

Their team slogan, “Fight for L.A.,” was chosen for a reason.

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Report: Seahawks to sign linebacker Michael Wilhoite

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Even with the signing of Arthur Brown last week, the Seattle Seahawks still see a need for depth at linebacker.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the Seahawks are addressing that need by signing former San Francisco 49ers linebacker Michael Wilhoite.

It has essentially led to a swap of middle linebackers between the two teams as backup middle linebacker Brock Coyle signed with the 49ers in the first few days of free agency.

Wilhoite has appeared in 65 games with San Francisco over the last five seasons and has started 34 games in the last three seasons. However, unless he can transition to playing strong-side linebacker in Seattle’s 4-3 scheme, Wilhoite is joining the Seahawks as a backup to Bobby Wagner and special teams contributor.

Mike Morgan – Seattle’s starting strong-side linebacker from last season – remains unsigned.

Wilhoite recorded 55 tackles in 16 games played for the 49ers last season. He joins Kevin Pierre-Louis, Dewey McDonald, Ronald Powell and Brown as depth at linebacker behind Wagner and K.J. Wright.

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Competition Committee proposes change to hiring procedures for coaches

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The NFL has plenty of rules that often are ignored. Unless those rules are going to be enforced, they should be changed.

Case in point: The current rules prohibit teams from hiring head coaches employed as assistants by other teams whose postseasons have not yet ended. Twice in the last three years, however, the worst-kept secret in the NFL centered on a team having a deal in place with an assistant from a Super Bowl team.

And so the rule could be going away. The Competition Committee has proposed a rule change permitting a club to “negotiate and reach an agreement with a head coach candidate during the postseason prior to the conclusion of the employer club’s season.”

It’s a rule that is long overdue. It was overdue two years ago, when the Falcons had a wink-nod deal in place with former Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. And it’s even more overdue now, after the 49ers had a wink-nod deal in place with former Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.

Will it be a distraction for the assistant coach? Nope. If anything, it will remove the potential distraction that arises when a guy who knows that, if his team keeps winning, he won’t get hired. That happened five years ago, when the Buccaneers decided they could no longer wait for former Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride.

And, yeah, that’s Gantt in the background of the photo. After putting up a photo of the new guy earlier, I need to find a way to make it up to the rest of the crew.

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Eagles propose allowing teams to have second helmet

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Several years ago, the NFL eliminated the ability of teams to have multiple helmets, based on the notion that keeping players in the same helmet all year long in some way helps manage or minimize concussions. The NCAA, with teams like Oregon that have a different helmet every week, clearly disagrees.

The Eagles do, too. They have proposed te rule change that, if passed, would allow teams to have an alternate helmet in a color that matches their third uniform.

Barring convincing medical evidence that having multiple helmets a health risk beyond the health risk already assumed when playing football, it makes sense to let teams have a second helmet. And I say that fully aware of the potential abominations that Nike will concoct if/when it acquires the ability to do so.

Then again, the Eagles previously did a pretty good job of screwing up an alternate helmet without Nike’s help.

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Report: Bears finalizing deal with Mark Sanchez

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Whatever cure is required for the quarterback situation in Chicago, it seems, won’t be found at this late stage in free agency. The best hope for remedy on the current roster comes in the form of Mike Glennon, he of 11 passes the past two seasons combined.

Depth, though, is depth.

The Bears appear on the brink of adding some.

Veteran journeyman Mark Sanchez is on the cusp of signing with the Bears, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported. This will be the fifth NFL team for the ex-USC quarterback, who has bounced from the Jets to Eagles to Broncos to Cowboys and now Bears since 2014.

Sanchez, 30, completed 10 of 18 passes in his lone season with the Cowboys, notching 93 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions.

But it’s all relative.

Elsewhere on the Bears’ QB depth chart today, Glennon threw 11 passes in 2016, and Connor Shaw threw none. So 11 compared to Sanchez’ 18.

See, things are starting to look up. And Donald Trump won’t tweet about this one.

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Joe Greene didn’t want to play in Pittsburgh

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Strange as it may sound to folks who have followed football for most of the last five decades, the Steelers at one point stunk. They stunk bad. The turning point, in hindsight, came with the hiring of coach Chuck Noll in 1969.

When Noll and the Steelers made defensive tackle Joe Greene the fourth overall pick in the ’69 draft, no one knew that things were going to change. As a result, Greene wasn’t happy to learn he’d be coming to Pittsburgh.

Greene explained his adverse reaction to becoming a Steeler during a Thursday visit to PFT Live. He also talked about the one time that he was actually intimidated on an NFL field, via a story that is well worth your time.

It will also be worth your time to check out Greene’s memoir, Mean Joe Greene: Built By Football. It’s available early next month; you can pre-order it now.

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Rams add DT Tyrunn Walker

AP

The Rams aren’t necessarily among the NFL teams that scream in need of defensive-line help.

On Thursday, they add a veteran and will hope he helps.

Los Angeles announced it agreed to terms with veteran defensive tackle Tyrunn Walker. He started eight games in 2016 for the Lions but underperformed, going from starter to a reserve player who was benched for a midseason game. He’ll work to gain favor with a fresh start on a line featuring Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers and Dominique Easley.

Walker, 27, played 353 defensive snaps in 2016. He appeared in 15 games, finishing the season with 26 tackles and no sacks.

The 2012 undrafted free agent from Tulsa missed all but four games in 2015 to a broken leg.

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